Maybe because Triple Crown season has just ended (with yet another failed but gallant effort by FunnyCide) and I get to see the video each year of this amazing performance. Maybe because in the annals of horse racing, this performance stands out head and shoulders above anything I’ve ever seen and nobody has yet to come close. I don’t think you need to be a fan of horse racing to appreciate how dominant this performance was. (Heard many times over the years, it still brings a chill up my spine.)
Horse racing was in the doldrums in the early 1970’s. It had been over twenty years since the last Triple Crown winner (Citation) had thrilled the public and many people were convinced that the sport might never see another one.
Say hello to Secretariat.
No he wasn’t as dominant as Man o’ War or for that matter, Citation. As a matter of fact, during his “career” he lost a total of 5 races out of twenty-one starts. So what made him so special?
Well, I guess if style has anything to with it, Secretariat was the master. At the Kentucky Derby, he set a track record that has yet to be equaled. He has run the only sub 2 minute mile and quarter (1:59 2/5) ever recorded at the Derby. If memory serves me correct, I believe he ran each of the quarter miles faster than the last one. (that too has yet to be matched). Absolutely amazing….
Some controversy came at his next test, the Preakness Stakes. Originally clocked at 1:53 2/5 over the mile and sixteenth (a full second faster than the track record), his time was later changed due to what might have been a faulty timer. A full second was added and Secretariat now held a share of the record.
That leaves what probably his most memorable performance at the Belmont Stakes. Over the mile and half, Secretariat managed to obliterate the old track record. He came in at 2:24, an astounding 2 3/5 seconds faster than any horse had ever run before in the race.
As I mentioned earlier, Secretariat had 21 career starts. Those included 16 first place finishes, 3 second place finishes and one 3rd third place finish. The only time he ran “out of the money” was in his first start.
Oh, yeah, he was also named the 35th greatest athlete of the century by ESPN and even managed to make the cover of Time magazine. Not too darn shabby.
Transcript of Secretariat’s amazing performance at the Belmont Stakes in 1973.
”And they're off!.....Looks like the early lead goes to My Gallant, yes My Gallant going for the lead with Twice a Prince on the outside. Secretariat away very well has good position on the rail..and in fact is now going up with the leaders. They're moving for the first turn. It is Secretariat, Sham on the outside is also moving along strongly and now it's Sham, Sham and Secretariat are right together into the first turn. My Gallant has third behind them, then it's Twice a Prince and the trailer is Private Smiles as they go by the turn.......Those two together, Sham on the outside, Sham getting a head in front as they move around the turn with Secretariat second.. then there's a large gap, make it eight lengths back to My Gallant in third and Twice a Prince fourth..and Private Smiles is still the trailer.......They're on the backstretch. It's almost a match race now. Secretariat's on the inside by a head. Sham is on the outside...They've opened ten lengths on My Gallant who is third by a head with Twice a Prince fourth, then it's another eight lengths back to Private Smiles who is trailing the field. They continue down the backstretch and that's Secretariat now taking the lead. He's got it by about a length and a half...Still Sham. Ten lengths back My Gallant, Twice a Prince...They're moving on the turn now. For the turn it's Secretariat. He looks like he's opening. The lead is increasing. Make it three, three and a half. He's moving into the turn. Secretariat holding on to a large lead. Sham is second, and then it's a long way back to My Gallant and Twice a Prince. They're on the turn and Secretariat is blazing along.the first three-quarters of a mile in one oh nine and four-fifths. Secretariat is widening now. He is moving like a tremendous machine!..Secretariat by twelve..Secretariat by fourteen lengths on the turn. Sham is dropping back. It looks like they'll catch him today as My Gallant and Twice a Prince are both coming up to him now. But Secretariat is all alone. He's out there almost a sixteenth of a mile away from the rest of the horses. Secretariat is in a position that seems impossible to catch. He's into the stretch. Secretariat leads this field by eighteen lengths and now Twice a Prince has taken second and My Gallant has moved back to third. They're in the stretch. Secretariat has opened a twenty-two length lead. He is going to be. the Triple Crown winner. Here comes Secretariat to the wire. An unbelievable, an amazing performance. He hits the finish..twenty-five lengths in front. It's going to be Twice a Prince second, My Gallant third, Private Smiles fourth, and Sham, who had it today, dropped back to fifth. An amazing, unbelievable performance by this miracle horse.......”
He wound up winning by thirty one lengths! The network covering the race, CBS didn’t have a camera angle wide enough to get any other horses in the picture. One writer wrote “He had only himself as a reference point”.